Transforming a Life Through Two Loves

Two seemingly diverse interests have profoundly shaped my life. If you’ve read this blog at all, you know the role fitness plays in my adult life. But you might not know just how much music has defined me.

This One Summer at Band Camp…

My parents felt that girls should play the piano. While I loved the actual music, I found everything else about lessons (practice, performance, evaluations) loathsome. My mom figured I was cornered when she agreed to let me quit…but only if shy, quiet 9-year-old me broke the news to my teacher.

Imagine Mom’s shock when I swiftly marched to the phone and did away with that torture.

Piano Lesson Notebook
One of the best part of piano lessons was picking a sticker to go on my completed lessons page. I still have my practice notebook, shown here.

My parents then pushed me to join band. My best friend, Liese, wanted to play the flute, so I picked it, too. Often opting to hang out on the playground instead of attend band class, I skipped many rehearsals. In fact, I missed a lot of sixth grade — I felt socially awkward, hated my teacher, and was horrifically uncomfortable with my advanced physique. (Let’s just say at 12, I pretty much had the figure I do now, only skinnier.)

In seventh grade, however, I found full band love through an improved musical skill set and new discovery, the piccolo. Under the tutelage of an outstanding band director, Mr. Jerome Brillhart, and within the structure of rehearsals and concert performances, new friendships blossomed. Heaven!

Band Memories
L.C. Anderson High’s band director Verda Herrington was celebrated at a special homecoming parade (left); me and Annie Hilgers Judice wear commemorative band shirts. I met my friend Marty (drums) training for Pikes Peak Marathon and then discovered our LHB connection. Piccolos from the 80’s at LHB Alumni Band Day, ready to march in.

When my family moved out of state for a year and a half, band provided familiar home turf to a stranger in a strange land. Once we returned to Austin, band was again a safe haven when things were weird (I never was sure which seventh grade acquaintences actually still remembered me). Marching season helped me fall further into social step. Legendary band director Verda Herrington (also known as “The Lady”) kept rowdy, hormonal teenagers (is there any other kind?) in line while somehow inspiring us to form strong personal bonds and reach unimagined musical heights.

Now and Then
Even the official University of Texas burnt orange has changed a bit since Hubby and I met during Longhorn Band practice in 1980.

Off to college, where a big state school experience can be surprisingly lonely. The University of Texas Longhorn Band cemented scores of lifelong connections, introducing close friends and even a spouse. Yes, my husband and I met on the sidelines of DK Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, the dulcet tones of Randol Bass’s classic arrangement, “Grieg Medley,” as the soundtrack. We’re still a duet.

Music, Fitness, and Writing

Music and fitness are definitely transformational. And even mystical, especially in the ways they’ve overlapped throughout my life.

When an old running friend recently contacted me about Anthropos Arts, a local nonprofit that pairs in-need band students with professional musicians for private lessons and mentoring, I knew I was destined to write about the group. An upcoming Anthropos Arts fundraiser organized by my friend’s gym, HEAT Bootcamp, made the story a perfect fit for me and a spot-on pitch for The Austinot.

My complete Anthropos Arts/ HEAT Bootcamp article can be read here: “Music, Movement Mix to Support Local Students”

Whether or not the upcoming Feb. 20 workout is your thing, I hope you visit Austin’s HEAT Bootcamp on Saturday (9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.) to listen and experience life-changing music and movement in the making.

Anthropos Arts Photo Collage

Photo collage of Austin gym HEAT Bootcamp members and locations.


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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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